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A diary of an international secondment

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By The Careers Team on

Norton Rose Fulbright trainee Gabriella Denlew on her time in Bahrain


A couple of months after returning from a six-month stint in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Bahrain office, trainee solicitor Gabriella Denlew sat down with Legal Cheek Careers to talk about her time abroad.

From securing the placement, to adjusting to life in the Middle East, to readjusting to life back in London, this is Denlew’s experience…

Application form time — again

Norton Rose Fulbright offers one of the highest chances of doing an international secondment of any City firm, with around half of the firm’s trainees spending time overseas.

Still, secondments are not simply handed out on a plate, with trainees required to submit an application in order to secure a place. Denlew explains:

Trainees who wish to go on secondment have to apply by drafting a small business case about why they will be suited to the seat. It’s important to include detail about the practice area that you would be in, alongside the location. In my case, being in a banking seat in London at the time, I emphasised the crossover between that work and the project finance matters dealt with by the team in Bahrain.

Just get on the plane!

“The idea of doing an international secondment can seem daunting,” says Denlew, but “it’s far less daunting when you get there”. She continues:

It’s just a case of jumping on a flight, which along with pretty much everything else is arranged for you by the firm. And suddenly you are there being collected from the airport, taken to your new apartment, and after a couple of days of relocation leave, starting work.

Sample life in a smaller office

Away from Norton Rose Fulbright in London, many of the firm’s offices are smaller in comparison. The advantage of this can be closer contact with senior figures and generally more responsibility. Denlew explains:

The Bahrain office, which is geared around project finance, is a bit like a sub-team in London. The head of the office was supervising me and signing off my work, which was a great experience. I was also sent out to represent the firm at conferences and helped to get involved in the Bahrain British Business Forum.

Being on the frontline, Denlew saw first-hand how major new projects, such as the Bahrain Liquid Natural Gas Terminal, reached financial close enabling her “to get a sense of how the whole transaction fits together beyond just the financing, which had been my primary focus in London during my first seat”.

Network like crazy

One of the highlights of Denlew’s time in Bahrain was the client exposure. She reports:

Clients were regularly coming to the office and I was very often asked to attend meetings alongside the head of the Bahrain office and an associate. I was also fortunate enough to have direct contact with Bahraini politicians — and actually met a government minister in the Ministry of Finance, who I was sent to see in order to have a document signed.

Denlew adds that the six months allowed her to grow her network significantly, both externally and internally within the firm. “Some of the projects I worked on involved colleagues in Norton Rose Fulbright’s other offices in region, including Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. You exchange business cards and can become LinkedIn connections with clients as well. These contacts continue to be useful in London,” she says.

Embrace the independence

This was the first time Denlew had lived alone. She urges secondees-to-be to “embrace the independence”. In doing so, Denlew got to know her neighbours — who included young lawyers from other firms who were also on secondment and other fellow young professionals. Denlew used her annual leave allowance to travel around the Middle East and Asia. She notes:

India is only three and a half hours away from Bahrain!

And before you know it, you are back in London…

“It was actually quite nice coming back,” says Denlew, “and easy in the sense that the Norton Rose Fulbright culture is very global, even though the culture of the countries you are in can be very different.”

Looking ahead, Denlew hopes to spend time at some of the firm’s other 50+ offices. “Being at this firm I will always have an international outlook,” she says.

Apply here for Norton Rose Fulbright’s summer vacation scheme ahead of the deadline on 8 January.

Gabriella Denlew is a third seat trainee in Norton Rose Fulbright’s London corporate team. Listen to her talk about her second seat in Bahrain below.

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